Yes, there’s definitely hysteria being expressed by Obamacare opponents. Obamacare supporters are claiming that Obamacare opponents have mischaracterized what the reform plan is, and with misleading rhetoric, have whipped mobs up into a frenzy. Among the most noteworthy examples that Obamacare supporters like to point to are Sarah Palin’s recent remarks suggesting that Obamacare will eventually lead to a government bureaucracy that Palin called a “death panel,” that would make final determinations over which health care treatments will be prescribed for you, and which will be summarily denied.
If you think my purpose in writing this blog entry is to urge my fellow Obamacare opponents to adopt a more calm, impassionate, emotionally-detached, and less provocative tone in this debate, while restricting the scope of the health care dialogue to exactly what’s contained in the Congressional bill’s 1017 pages, you’d be . . . WRONG!
Instead, this blog entry is intended to offer a few highlights about why it’s perfectly OK to get hysterical in our opposition to Obamacare. In recent years, we, the people, have been paying closer attention to how our federal government operates, and here are some of the lessons we’ve learned that inform our approach to Obamacare:
- The final bill won’t be 1017 pages. We know this from watching what happened to other high-profile bills, such as the bailouts, and cap-and-trade. All kinds of amendments are attached, and additional pages get inserted, constantly changing the content of the bill, so it’s silly to insist that we limit the health care reform dialogue to reflect only what’s written on 1017 pages.
- Members of Congress don’t even author legislation anymore. Let’s not pretend that a member of Congress, or even multiple members of Congress crafted the wording of this or any bill. Congress receives pre-fabricated pieces of legislation, and then nit-picks over it. Who pre-fabricates the legislation? Special interest groups, White House staffers, Congressional staffers, etc. Even if there was a Thomas Jefferson among the ranks of members of Congress who was capable of drafting language as powerful and well-thought-out as the Declaration of Independence, I guarantee that none of them personally cranked out these 1017 pages during the time that has elapsed since the start of the Obama administration. And because the words contained in this legislation are the handiwork of scores of anonymous grunts, and did not originate with the members of Congress themselves, we don’t trust members of Congress to be able to speak authoritatively about it, particularly not the nuances of the semantics.
- Changes to legislation are made in the middle of the night and the wee hours of the morning, just hours before the final floor vote on the bill. It’s impossible to predict in advance what these last-minute changes will entail, and there’s no window of opportunity to scrutinize the changes. The fact that an additional 300 pages can be inserted into legislation between the time that floor debate has wrapped up and the time that the votes are cast further illustrates that members of Congress are not original authors of legislation, and that legislation arrives pre-packaged from other sources, and that portions of legislation are strategically withheld from public view until after the bill’s passage.
- We don’t even assume that our Congressional representatives have read the legislation that they vote on. Again, when legislation runs into the hundreds and thousands of pages, not only is it safe to assume that members of Congress were too busy to write the legislation themselves, we also have to wonder if they even read the legislation themselves. We end up having to specifically ask our Congressional reps whether they’ve personally read through specific bills or not. How many times have we faulted a member of Congress for a law’s unintended consequences, and the member of Congress, in turn, responds that they hadn’t the faintest idea that it was included in the legislation they passed? If they aren’t reading the legislation, they definitely didn’t write it.
- There’s no way to hold the nameless, faceless, anonymous grunts accountable for slimy pre-packaged legislation that they feed Congress. We can try to hold members of Congress accountable, but members of Congress have shown that they can be quite slippery when we, the people, try to nab them. Members of Congress are adept at playing the blame game and passing the buck to Rush Limbaugh, or some other imaginary demon, and letting themselves off the hook. Meanwhile, the chief culprits who remain faceless, nameless, and anonymous, keep churning out the sausage that makes us all sick to our stomachs. They face no reprisals. We, the people, take it on the chin.
- Too many members of Congress are lawyers. They insert ambiguities into the law that are intended to reap a windfall for their own profession. Disagreements over the meaning and intent of a law are decided in a courtroom. Cha-ching. Therefore, as applied to Obamacare, much of the meaning of the legislation won’t be truly known until long after the law has been enacted, as lawsuits wind their way through courthouses throughout the land.
- Obama seeks to appoint activist federal attorneys and judges. Following on the heels of the previous point, since the full meaning of the law won’t be known until the conclusion of court litigation, the outcome depends partly on who the personnel are inside the courtroom. If Obama appointed those who were strict constructionists in interpreting the Constitution, we might have some gauge as to what the outcomes would be, as they would more closely conform to our understanding of the Constitution. Activist attorneys and judges, however, may seek to impose something very far afield from what a reading of the Constitution might indicate, adding uncertainty to the outcome.
- Even if Congress had an up-or-down vote on the 1017 pages, Bill Clinton has taught us that even the meaning of the word “is” can be interpreted in multiple ways. Thus, the debate even limited to the contents of the 1017 pages must envision all the ways in which meanings of words can be stretched. So if it seems Obamacare opponents have an overactive imagination, there’s good reason for it.
- Even when meanings of words are agreed upon, it still doesn’t ensure the federal government will conform to expectations. Another lesson from the Bill Clinton era: Perjury may be an impeachable offense, but it doesn’t rise to the level of criminal behavior that warrants removal from office. Personally, I think it did warrant removal from office, but that’s not how the Senate voted. The upshot is, key people in our federal government can lie, and the only penalty they will suffer is embarrassment. The government can also cheat. Note that Senator Dodd will not be penalized for his VIP mortgage deal from Countrywide, and that Tim Geithner was treated with much more leniency by the IRS than a non-VIP would receive. The biggest players in Washington are cheaters, and we, the people, have little confidence in Washington’s integrity.
- The Beltway insulates the federal government from the people. Those inside Washington’s Beltway don’t live like the rest of us. The more time they spend inside that cocoon, the less their motives match our own.
- Lobbyists have more access to the federal government than citizens do. The reason we have a captive marketplace for health insurance instead of a free marketplace has everything to do with the access that lobbyists have and the detachment from citizens that government officials feel. And why do lobbyists have more access than we do? Because they bundle campaign donations far more effectively than we do, and because they are physically present inside the Beltway while we inhabit the hinterlands. Money talks, and the lobbyists have it, so they do the talking. Campaigns treasuries have to fill their coffers somehow. Citizens don’t get health care reformed in the way that we want it to be reformed because no lobbyists will cough up campaign donations for implementing the reforms that we, the people, would favor.
- Even as lengthy as legislation is, much of the rule-making is left to bureaucrats within the executive branch. So even if we identify the culprits who pre-packaged the legislative sausage for us and held them accountable, we have to take the additional step to identify the nameless, faceless, anonymous bureaucrats within the agencies of the Obama administration in order to address the federal administrative code that would follow on the heels of the passage of legislation. Once those persons are identified, they still can’t be held accountable. They are out of reach, and only a formidable outcry in the court of public opinion can get them booted from power. On the other hand, public outcry seems to have little effect with this White House, as Tim Geithner getting the Treasury Secretary job illustrates.
- Problematic legislation is almost never repealed. Instead, additional legislation is piled upon it, ostensibly to mitigate the problems, but invariably compounding the problems, until a crisis is declared, clearing the way for sweeping changes that result in yet another power grab by federal authorities. You’d think with advances in literacy, science, and technology, our society would be far better equipped to devolve power back to the people than when the Constitution was first drafted. Counterintuitively, power has been increasingly consolidated in Washington over the past two-plus centuries. Fixing problems is often the ruse used for Washington’s power grabs, even if the problems were caused by Washington in the first place. In fact, we, the people, have to wonder whether enactment of flawed legislation is deliberate sabotage intended to trigger the “justification” for a bigger government role.
So, we, the people, have great difficulty communicating with Washington over top of the competing voices of lobbyists. The members of Congress are passengers on a runaway train of legislation that they didn’t craft, perhaps didn’t even read, and probably don’t understand. We have no clue what the final version of the legislation will be. After the legislation leaves Congress, we don’t know what the resulting rules will be that are concocted and enforced by Obama’s bureaucrats. After that, we don’t know what the lawyers will take issue with, and what the courts will decree in response. Even once everything is hammered out, we can’t be assured that the federal government will keep up their end of the bargain as they’ve demonstrated a capacity to lie and cheat while dodging real accountability.
As far as I’m concerned, any interpretation of Obamacare is fair game, as it’s too fluid, too nebulous, not concrete enough to possess a set definition. Sarah Palin is perfectly within reason to refer to Obama’s proposed health care regime as a “death panel.” Obamacare supporters cannot credibly claim that something is or is not applicable to the health care reform debate, as nothing can be ruled out at this point.
I recommend that Obamacare opponents sound off on any and every possible concern they may have about health care granted by government decree. If we don’t stake out our positions, if we don’t draw the line on what is and is not acceptable, if we do not make our voices heard, we are bound to discover that this legislation will take on a shape that we abhor. We absolutely must raise a ruckus. The magnitude of our mass hysteria must overpower the evil designs of Washington powermongers who would trample the authority of the people.
We edge ever closer to the crossroads that mark a defining turn of events in the future of our nation. Liberty, itself, hangs in the balance. We, the people, must rise to the challenge.
August 10, 2009 at 7:38 pm
There has been a great deal of talk in the media — print, radio, tv — just about everywhere about the behavior and tactics being employed by various organizations. There have been comments about well behaved and polite citizenry attending meetings to voice their opinions. There have been stories of those who haven’t conducted themselves well. I suspect these stories will go on throughout the month of August and perhaps beyond. For one, I hope they do go on well beyond.
I think both sides have taken essentially the same tactics. Labeling each other with invectives, giving their supporters a ‘playbook’, and attempting to use the media to their advantage. All of this is okay. It is okay because in America we have the right to freedom of speech, assembly and freedom of the press. These are rights that thousands have given their lives to protect. The debate on health care which consumes nearly a fifth of the national economy and involves everyone is something that we should openly debate and understand the intended and unintended consequences of before we change an entire system.
It is important to provide better access, bend the cost curve so that health care is affordable (and not just through shifting costs by taxing) as well as sustainable, and improving the quality of the care delivered.
We are a country that leads the world in health care innovation. We have to zealously protect that aspect. No other country in the world is positioned to take our place if we take our eye off this important work.
But above all democracy demands that citizens get involved and voice their opinions. Follow the healthcare debate and other important health care system issues at http://www.ilovebenefits.wordpress.com
August 11, 2009 at 8:47 pm
Okay, where and to whom do we “raise a ruckus”? It seems people think if they send chain email or write to the President, they’ve done their job. I’m also surprised how many people in medical or business profession think this legislation will not be passed.
August 11, 2009 at 9:28 pm
Daniel: Your’e right on the money with health care! We are in the fight for our lives, our LIBERTY!!!
August 12, 2009 at 1:03 am
How to raise a ruckus beyond email, snail mail, attending town halls, and visiting the offices of the legislators? Phone.
Senator George Voinovich
Senator Sherrod Brown
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Sounds like the senate from “The Revenge of the Sith” Maybe George Lucas has a better grip on reality than our government.
August 30, 2009 at 8:45 pm
If we’re using that parallel, then Obama would be analogous to Chancellor Palpatine.
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